The Breathing Method Used in Aikido

From “Aikido in Daily Life” by Koichi Tohei pg.33 copyright 1966 ISBN 0870402218

Koichi Tohei wrote:

2. The Breathing Method Used in Aikido

As pre-practice training in aikido we frequently use a breathing method that calls for inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

  1. Stand with your legs open about a half step. In this breathing method you may either open or close your eyes. Spread your fingers, and let your arms hang naturally, (fig.2a).
  2. Breathe in as if you were drawing in the ki of the universal, close the fingers of both hands in order beginning with the little fingers. As you inhale, rise up on your toes. Inhalation should take about five seconds, (fig. 2b).
  3. When you have taken in sufficient breath, lower your fists as if you were about to fall on them, tense the single spot in the lower abdomen, and lower your heels, (fig. 2c). In this case it is not as if your ki were sinking into the spot in the lower abdomen. It is rather that you are concentrating all of your body’s strength there. This will cause you too feel strength surging all through your body. Remain fixed in this position for about five seconds.
  4. Keeping your mouth closed, begin exhaling through your nose as if you were driving out all of your body’s strength. Simultaneously, open the fingers of both hands in order, and when they are open turn them palms down as if you were pressing on the surface of the earth. Swing both hands in the directions shown by the dotted lines in fig. 2d. When you have finished exhaing, tense the single spot in the lower abdomen, and return you hands to the position in which they seem to be pressing downward. This process should take a total of about ten seconds.
  5. When you have completely exhaled immediately open your fingers, face them outward, and return to the position in fig 2a to begin inhaling again.

Though this breathing method falls short of the misogi method in deep spiritual and bodily unification and in the propagation of real srength, its advantage lies in the brief time it takes under daily circumstances. Five or six times is enough to do it, and because it takes only twenty seconds to go through one exercise, a whole set only requres from one and one half to two minutes.

We have a reason for saying that you should tense the single spot in the lower abdomen when you do this breathing exercise. When you are shocked, extremely tired, or angry it is difficult to sink you spirit into the single spot in the lower abdomen, because, we say, under such conditions we cannot locate that sopt. This breathing method is very effective in such cases. If you tense your lower abdomen without breath practice your blood will rush upward, and you will find it still harder to find the single spot, whereas if you do both, your strength will concentrate in the single spot in the lower abdomen. Once you have unified completely your body and spirit and relaxed you will be able to collect ki in the single spot. When you are tired this method will quickly restore your strength by helping you reunite the sundered spirit and body to give birth to new strength. Even when you are not tired and about to begin some task, practice this breathing method, and it will give you a sense of security to begin and show what real strength you have.

  • Fig. 2a shows K. Tohei standing with feet about shoulder length apart with arms out at waist and fingers splayed out.
  • Fig. 2b shows him on his toes, hands closed to fists with inside arm facing front. Chest and shoulders have risen from inhalation.
  • Fig. 2c shows him with feet on floor, chest and shoulders down. Hands in fists with arrows drawn down along arms, showing direction of focus.
  • Fig. 2d Shows him with fingers splayed out and palms facing the ground. Directional arrows show a circular swing to the center. There is no stepping or change in position in all four poses.


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